Social History: ROXY THEATRE “The Cathedral of the Motion Picture”
Often cited as the most impressive movie palace ever built, the Roxy Theatre was called “The Cathedral of the Motion Picture” by its creator and namesake, Samuel ‘Roxy’ Rothafel.
On March 11, 1927, the Roxy Theatre opened at 761 Seventh Avenue in New York City.
Named after its creator, the film exhibitor Samuel “Roxy” Rothafel, and designed by the Chicago architect, Walter W. Ahlschlager, the Roxy was the largest and arguably the most elaborate movie palace ever built.
Each performance at the Roxy would include the great theatre organ. It would rise from the orchestra – similar to this present day concert opening.
(Left: Patrons entering the lobby of the Roxy in the 1940s) This self–proclaimed “Cathedral of the Motion Picture” had 5,886 seats*, employed a staff of 300 (including 16 projectionists, 110 musicians, and 2 trained nurses), and cost $12 million to build.
The theater contained a complete hospital with an operating room, a 550–ton ice–cooling plant, and its own radio broadcasting studio.
Sensors in each seat were wired to a centrally located wall chart of the theater’s seating plan.
By observing which lights were on or off on this wall chart, the ushers could quickly see which seats were not occupied. Among many other “firsts”, this was the first movie theater to use a rear–projection system developed by the Trans–Lux Daylight Picture Screen Corporation.
Famous film star Gloria Swanson (Sunset Blvd) was photographed by Life Magazine in the ruins of the Roxy when it was torn down to make room for an office building.